Tasting Room Music – Beware!

Your favorite winemakers’ lawyer emails you: “Congrats! You’ve just gotten your OLCC WY ATO! But before you play music in your TR, beware of PRO letters from BMI or ASCAP or SESAC!”

What on earth? Let’s break down those letters. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which licenses you an Authority to Operate for a Winery with a Tasting Room (as opposed to a Winery No Consumption, which isn’t a tasting room). But what about those letters at the end?

Federal law protects musicians through the Copyright Act. Section 10 of that Act permit the licensing of music played to the public under any circumstance. Any records you play – or CDs for folks in my generation – or downloads for those younger than me – in your own home are fine. But once the public hears them, you’ve got to get a license or you’ll get a nasty cease and desist letter. (Or hopefully just a helpful nudge to pay a licensing fee to one of the performer rights organizations.)

What to do? As a prudent lawyer with prudent clients, I issue the same advice as I do to folks who want to make wine: get a license first. You can get a license through BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) or ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), but I recommend Pandora for Business, which is a monthly plan that allows you to customize your musical selections. Because BMI and ASCAP have overlapping but not identical portfolios, there’s little way to ensure each song you play is protected. A Pandora for Business account allows you to shift the responsibility to Pandora itself. (Note! Spotify is not licensed for business use and is instead specifically for personal use only. Thus, a purchase of a Spotify account will not insulate you from a Copyright claim.)

Exemptions under the Copyright Act are few: music from a television or radio in tasting rooms is exempt, but why would you be showing a TV show to your customers?

Music is great and I’m a fan – but I’m also a fan of not poking a hornet’s nest.